Older and wiser?

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Valencia
February 25

Dear Editor,

Some disturbing and uncomfortable things which affect all Brits have been occurring in the UK in the last four or five years which would not have happened 10 years ago.

We see it with statues being pulled down by students, the concept of inherent white privilege, the idea that only white people can be racist, unconscious racism, heroes of the past such as Winston Churchill being re-evaluated negatively, the aggressive intolerance of views which do not match the narrow liberal left agenda, people being suspended or losing their jobs for expressing a view that’s deemed by the Twitter commentators to be ‘unacceptable’, much loved comedies such as ‘The Likely Lads’, ‘Only Fools and Horses’ etc. being preceded by a warning that ‘some people may be offended’, people being able to choose their gender, unisex toilets where women have to walk past men using urinals to get to the cubicles, modern comedians ranting their politically correct views at the audience to get easy applause from their fans rather than being funny and making you laugh, students ‘cancelling’ speakers whose views they don’t want to hear, the police fraternising with protestors who block roads instead of upholding the law etc. etc.

One or more of the above list appears in the UK popular press every day.

For the moment very little in the list has occurred in Spain. You won’t see the Spanish Guardia Civil bringing sandwiches and coffee to people blocking the road to make sure they are comfortable. You won’t see a Spanish National Police officer dancing along with protesters. Here in Spain some statues have been taken down or streets renamed to remove vestiges of the Franco period in Spanish history, but this is mainly being done by the authorities in line with current Spanish government policy.

These disturbing and uncomfortable events, actions and ideas taking place in the UK have arisen as a result of a number of separate underlying theories that have catapulted to the fore in the last four or five years (e.g. ideas of inherent white privilege arise from ‘Critical Race Theory’), but all of the theories which are fomenting the above disturbing actions or events have one thing in common.

The fundamental idea that underpins all of them is that there is no such thing as ‘the truth’. There are only ‘opinions’, ‘interpretations’ or ‘truths that depend on where you’re looking from’. The new dogma is that truth is relative not absolute… there isn’t just ONE explicit truth about any event or idea.

To make the point at a trivial level, most of us will be aware of an interview on the American Oprah Winfrey show with one of the UK’s Royal couples. This was introduced as being these two people telling ‘their truth’. Not THE truth, but THEIR truth from their point of view. It may or may not be equally valid to the contrary view/truth as seen by the rest of the Royal Family (‘Recollections may vary’). The new idea is that both versions may have merit or be true depending on where you are looking from.

On a more substantive level, when the current older generation were at school we were broadly taught and sort of accepted that when swashbuckling adventurers from Spain, France and Britain crossed the Atlantic, ‘discovered’ America and brought back treasures, potatoes, tobacco, etc. this was something laudable.

But if you look at it from the point of view of the indigenous peoples of the Americas, then you are more likely to see the truth as that the Spanish Conquistadors Pizarro and Cortes violently destroyed the indigenous Inca civilisation and culture in South and Central America, while the British and French nearly wiped out the various Indian tribes and their culture in North America.

It’s undeniable that in the history of North and South America the view from the indigenous populations carries a lot of force, which wasn’t properly reflected in our history books.

It’s uncomfortable to see statues of heroes in Britain who have been generally admired over the centuries being violently torn down, thrown into canals or put away in back rooms of museums. The new interpretation emphasises more that some of these admired heroes and generous philanthropists in British history made their money via the slave trade and so shouldn’t be so admired. It’s disturbing, but right, that people who are literally put up on a pedestal in the streets should be subjected to a re-evaluation to take into account all aspects of their lives. A person of African heritage may justifiably be offended by seeing a statue of a slave trader in the street. The truth depends on where you’re looking from.

These days students often refuse to listen to speakers who don’t conform with their woke politically correct ideas or who don’t express the narrow liberal left or Marxist view of the world. Older and, I would say, wiser people would contend that students should actively and willingly expose themselves to many other viewpoints and ideas…it’s part of the process of learning. Young students see it one way, older people usually see it another way.

These apparently new ideas that have catapulted many disturbing and uncomfortable events and actions to the fore in the UK in the last four or five years are, in fact, not new. They have been bubbling under the surface in Marxist and left wing thought in American academic circles for a few decades. The US is the other country where woke ideas have gained most traction.

But now these woke ideas are being taken seriously on board throughout British society… the Establishment, the upper echelons of the Civil Service, the BBC, heads of big charities and government bodies, the police, local government, heads of big companies etc. are all fully signed up to these ideas. Staff are sent on training courses to ensure that they are fully compliant. The UK is fast becoming the woke capital of the world.

It’s a changing world and different ideas are achieving prominence. Sometimes, as I’ve indicated above, this may be regarded as a creditable thing. Other times the events and actions arising from these ideas appear to be self evident nonsense. Change is inevitable but not always for the better.

But who knows which it is? After all, the new Western orthodoxy is that there’s no such thing as the truth now.

Brian

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